Can we work together to fight climate change?
What is the IPCC report?
It’s the last installment of the sixth assesment report (AR6) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is a body of the world’s leading climate scientists. It is called the synthesis report as it puts together all the key findings of the three main reports over the last eight years to make a comprehensive review of knowledge about climate change. It has involved over 700 scientists in 91 countries. This report puts all the findings of the previous reports into one document for us all to digest. This report will be the basis of the next UN Climate Summit, COP 28 which will be held in November. The progress countries have made on cutting greenhouse gas emissions since the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 will be determined.
This is the sixth assessment report since IPCC was set up in 1988, with each report having taken 6-8 years to complete. The next IPCC report is scheduled for 2030, making this the last report while it’s still feasible to stay below 1.5°C of heating.
Here are the key takeaways.
#1 It has been proven that humans have already induced global warming of 1.1°C, which has spurred changes to the Earth’s climate that have never been seen in human history.
Unprecedented changes to the climate are occurring around the world, from extreme weather events, melting sea ice and sea level rise. Every half degree celsius of temperature rise will increase the frequency and severity of weather events. If warming reaches between 2-3°C, the Greenland ice sheet will melt almost completely, making sea levels rise by meters.
#2 The impacts on people and ecosystems from climate change are more widespread and severe than expected. Future risks will escalate rapidly with every fraction of a degree of warming.
Research has shown that climate impacts are already more extreme than anticipated. Half of the people in the world suffer from water scarcity for at least one month out of the year, warm temperatures help to spread vector-borne diseases and crop productivity is shrinking due to extreme drought. Even at 1.5°C, 950 million people will experience desertification and water stress. If we warm over 1.5°C, there will be many species extinctions and a large loss of human lives due to heat.
#3 Adaptation can build resilience, but more money is necessary for solutions.
170 countries have adaptation plans, however they are far away from implementation. Money is the limiting factor in most situations. The IPCC states that developing countries alone will need $127 billion a year by 2030 and $295 billion per year by 2050 to adapt to climate change. That’s A LOT of money. However, the IPCC does find that with support, available adaptations can build up resistance to the risks of climate change. Small low cost adaptations can be implemented today such as planting trees, protecting ecosystems and implementing crop diversity are items that can make a big difference with future temperature rise.
#4 Some impacts from climate change are already too far gone.
Climate change may be out of sight and out of mind for some here at home, however vulnerable people and ecosystems around the world are already being hit hard by climate change. Coastal communities are losing the fish that they live off of and rising sea levels have made low-lying communities dissapear. At COP27, countries historically agreed to put money into a fund for loss and damage. Now, countries will financially have to help countries that are experiencing loss and damages from climate change.
#5 More than a 50% chance that global temperatures will surpass 1.5°C by 2040.
The scenarios ran by scientists also say our emissions could increase between 3.3°C to 5.7°C by 2100. The last time global temperatures were 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels was more than 3 million years ago. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, we need large scale greenhouse gas reductions and soon. If countries can achieve their climate pledges, research suggests it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just 7% by 2030, which is quite shy of the 43% needed to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. We all need to do a more.
#6 The world must rapidly shift from the burning of fossils fuels which is the number one cause of the climate crisis.
To limit global warming worldwide, we need to be retiring fossil fuel infrastructure, cancelling any new projects, retrofitting fossil-fueled power plants with carbon capture and storage technology, as well as scaling up renewable energy sources like solar and wind. In research projections where we are to limit warming to 1.5°C, the global use of coal would fall to 95% by 2050, oil use would decline by 60% and gas by 45%. In Europe and the United States, coal-fired power plants are starting to be retired, however some development banks continue to invest in new coal projects.
#7 We need urgent transformations to secure a net-zero climate resilient future.
We all know we wouldn’t survive if we got rid of oil and gas tomorrow. We need to transition our infrastructure. While fossil fuels are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, we need to cut emissions across all areas to combat the climate crisis. Power, industry, buildings and transport are responsible for close to 80% of global emissions, with forestry and agriculture making up the remainder.
For an easy example, transport. If we cut oil and gas, we need plans that minimize the need for travel, public transit options, bicycle lanes, electric vehicle affordability, wide scale rapid charging infrastructure for those vehicles and zero carbon fuels for aviation.
#8 Carbon removal is essential to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Besides decarbonization and adaptation, to reach 1.5°C the IPCC finds that we need to also have carbon removal. This encompasses using technology to pull carbon dioxide from the air, but also natural solutions such as storing carbon in trees and soil.
#9 Finance for both climate mitigation and adaptation must increase dramatically within this decade.
The IPCC has found that public and private money that flows for fossil fuels far surpasses those directed toward climate mitigation and adaptation. This gap is the widest in developing countries that are already struggling from the pandemic and debt. The money is there, it just needs to be put in the right place.
#10 Climate change will only worsen inequities around the world if we fail.
Look at this fact. Households with incomes in the top 10% in developed countries emit up to 45% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, families earning in the bottom 50% make up barely 15% of greenhouse gases emitted. Yet, climate change effects marginalized communities the hardest. Between 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in countries that are vulnerable to climate impacts. In these countries, there is already conflict, inequality, and challenges (ie. no access to clean water) which limit the ability to adapt.
In the same breath, efforts to mitigate climate change could exacerbate inequality. For example, retiring coal plants may displace workers and disrupt local economies. Instead, we need to make sure that when transistioning to a lower carbon economy, no one is left behind. If governments phase out coal power generation, they need to supply retraining programs to support workers ability to find new jobs.
We Need Action
This report shows that the way ahead requires change and faster than we haven’t seen before….BUT we have never had this much research and information about the way forward before. We now can see evidence of how real the climate emergency is and what needs to be done.
LIMITING THE RISING GLOBAL TEMPERATURE TO 1.5°C IS STILL POSSIBLE BUT ONLY IF WE ACT NOW.
We need everyone from governments, private sector and individuals to step up to keep the future we want in sight. There isn’t a second to lose.
This is a grim summary post, but it is what we need to read to get our butt in gear. When I challenge you to turn off the lights or turn down your heat, it isn’t just to get views on a reel. I truly believe that no one should sit by idly. It is on all of us to fight for the future of our planet, the future planet that generations of our families will have to deal with long after we are gone. I want my great great grandchildren to be able to swim in the ocean, climb mountains and see wild animals like I have been able too. We all need to fight, and if we all do little things it can really go a long way.
Keep DOing More Good,
Source: World Resources Institute